Theme: Indigenous Rights
The Oak Institute for Human Rights, established in 1997, annually brings a prominent human rights activist to campus. While in residence, Oak Fellows get a chance to reflect, recuperate, and educate the Colby community about their work.
The 2022 Oak Human Rights Fellows are Michelle Cook and Ana Lucía Ixchíu Hernández. Both will join the Colby community for the Fall 2022 semester to raise awareness on issues of indigenous rights, and share the ways colonialism and the formation of modern nation-state borders have created mass human rights violations for indigenous peoples and made cultural survival increasingly difficult. Both activists will spend the semester reflecting on their work and sharing their perspectives on the human rights abuses that indigenous communities have endured for centuries.
By educating banks, companies, and businesses on how their investments impact the human rights of Indigenous women, IWDD centers Indigenous women as critical actors in shaping global economic justice.
Michelle Cook is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation and was born of the Honághááhnii (One Who Walks Around You) clan. She just earned (in June 2022) the title of Doctor of Juridical Science (S.J.D.) from the University of Arizona, with a dissertation on intersections of indigenous rights, divestment, and gender in the United States. She is also the founder of Divest Invest Protect and the Indigenous Women’s Divestment Delegations (IWDD.) IWDD is an intersectional, Indigenous-led international human rights campaign pressuring banks, insurance, and credit rating agencies to divest from harmful extraction companies and invest in the cultural survival and self-determination of the world’s Indigenous peoples. By educating banks, companies, and businesses on how their investments impact the human rights of Indigenous women, IWDD centers Indigenous women as critical actors in shaping global economic justice.
Recently, she and her team made “The Beads that Bound Manhattan and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Wampum Belt” to address continued attempts to disestablish Native reservations and erase the political and historical existence of the Mashpee Wampanoag. Per Cook, “The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (‘UN Declaration’) wampum belt is a means of teaching Indigenous human rights using and centering Indigenous peoples’ technology and pedagogical legal practices with wampum as both the medium and the message of accountability, healing, and change. The wampum belt is part of an ongoing attempt to redefine both the collective past and future of the United States of America and its relationship with Indigenous peoples and Nations, shedding light on the hidden history of wampum, how the US engages with Indigenous people.” This work demands relationships built on reciprocity, self-determination, and human rights, which weaves seamlessly into the mission and practices of Oak.